This week (23-29 May) marks National Palliative Care Week, and this year’s theme is “Palliative Care: It’s more than you think”. The week seeks to raise awareness about the many benefits of quality palliative care. Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) CEO Sonya Smart says the organisation believes that good palliative care is an essential part of their aged care residences and disability services.

She shares that the soon-to-be-opened VMCH O’Neill House in Prahran will be dedicated to providing comfort for those in palliative care. ‘This 22-bed palliative care home is the first of its kind, and a much needed resource for older people and their families requiring end of life support,’ said Ms Smart.

‘The spaces and services at O’Neill House will create the opportunity for residents and families to spend time together, reminisce and create new memories.

‘O’Neill will offer a solution that provides older people with a choice, and the opportunity to die peacefully, surrounded by family and friends. We will also have our ever-supportive Pastoral Care Practitioners on site, to provide comfort and spiritual care for the resident and their families at what is a very difficult time.’

One of VMCH’s residents, Terry, recently passed away while living at VMCH Providence Aged Care Residence in Bacchus Marsh. As his health declined, he was supported by palliative care services and the VMCH care team. Whilst it was a difficult time for his wife Linda and their daughters, they couldn’t fault the care that they all received from the staff.

‘We felt so supported. They made us food, we had plenty to drink, they couldn’t do enough. They went above and beyond. I know it’s their job, but it was the compassion they showed us.’

Ms Smart says stories like Linda and Terry’s show that we must continue to talk about dying.

‘As a care organisation, we must ensure that our residents, clients and families feel supported at all times. I look forward to sharing more initiatives around our palliative care services this year, and how we are contributing positively to people’s lives, and deaths.’